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Drought Tolerant Planting

Turning up the heat on plants

Although gardeners are well known for putting up with whatever the weather throws at them, with late frosts, heavy rain and damaging winds bashing plants without mercy, there’s still one element that may prove a larger problem as temperatures slowly climb year after year.

Sunshine, or rather too much of it, can have gardeners reaching for hoses in an effort to save precious plants. So, is there a way of reducing the amount of stress on plants and gardeners alike?

Yes, welcome to the clever world of xeriscaping, a method of gardening that reduces the need for watering and maintenance. Commonly called drought-resistant planting, nature has long been xeriscaping in the drier regions of the worlds for millions of years.

So what are the key things to remember? Let’s start with the basics. Less leaf area means less water lost during the heat of the day. Plants with tough or small leaves like Festuca, Sedum and Pine all have good drought tolerance.

Survival technique number two is grey foliage. Light is more easily reflected from light foliage so Lavender, Senecio and Eryngium all have the winning advantage. Next, the deeper the roots go, the more able a plant is to search out water below ground. Yuccas, with their tough evergreen leaves are well suited to plunging roots deep into the soil.

Another tip to remember is that plants in desert conditions often partly shade themselves under rocks where scarce rain is more easily collected. Our equivalent is to use shingle or a mulch beneath plants which reduces the amount of water lost through evaporation.

Likewise, water in the evening after the sun goes down. For small gardens, use glazed pots as terracotta dries out quicker due to its porosity. Grouped pots protect each other from the effects of drying winds and heat.

Copy nature to survive the heat of summer and your plants will soon show their appreciation by growing better.